Confessions Of A (Pine) Nut
I'll admit it. I'm one of those people. I listen to Christmas music more than December. Even more than November and December. Some years, the holiday sounds have been heard in our house parts of every month of the year. I know, lock me up.
It really all started as kind of a joke. About 15 years ago we were making our annual summer pilgrimage to Southern California to visit with my family. We were driving by Baker, California where the gigantic thermometer there proclaimed a temperature of 115. We were listening to a selection playing from my Ipod that came to an end. As a joke, especially since we were in what had to be the most un-Christmas like territory and time, I started my Christmas playlist. We giggled for a few minutes, but as I was reaching to start some other music my daughter from the back seat said, “you can just let that play.” So we did. For the rest of the trip.
A few years ago, I was helping to program one of our sister stations playlist, and traditionally, it would switch to all Christmas music in mid to late November. The response was predictable. The hate emails and phone calls were immediate. It's so fashionable to be among the crowd to say “I can't stand Christmas music! I'll never listen to it!” That's what people say, but it's not what they do. Year after year in checking the listener ratings of radio stations in the top 50 radio markets of the United States, the stations that make the change to, well now they call it holiday music (but it's really Christmas music) have the largest audiences, and often by a substantial number. It got so bad, that Nielson (at the time Arbitron) the company that measures radio listener ship made an adjustment to their fall ratings period time that had been late September through late December. The radio stations not playing Christmas music complained so much, that the ratings company took December out of that period and made it a separate reporting period.
According to Mediabase, a company that monitors what songs radio stations are playing (I've provided the link, but you can't access the data without a user name and password – sorry) Mariah Carey's “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was played 50,151 times last holiday season. That's just on terrestrial radio. Add to that all the streaming and on demand options. Now, we in broadcast might not be the brightest bulbs in the drawer, but we wouldn't play something that much if someone didn't want to listen to it. By the way, there's an interesting little dust up happening as Ms. Carey is trying to trademark the phrase the “queen of Christmas,” and I'll let you read about that here.
I realize, I'm outside the norm here, but I'm not alone. A quick google search brought up this website that shows where you can listen to Christmas music all year long. I think your jaw will hit the ground when you see how much there is. Plus there's a couple of others not on the list and I'll mention a couple more. Klove.com streams their regular contemporary Christian music but if you look at at the different channels, there is a full time Christmas option. And this link will take you to a Seattle radio station that has a full time stream and sub channel of holiday favorites. One of the stations in Salt Lake City had a full time stream and sub channel, too, but it's been down since March (yes, I checked).
But there is something deeper to me about the sounds of the holidays, and in fact everything about the “most wonderful time of the year.” Christmas is fun, or should be. It's gatherings with those who dwell in the deepest regions of our hearts. It's a time when we turn outwards and try to be a source of light to those around us. It's a time of giving. But beyond that, it's the promise of hope and joy.
I don't know about you, but I can use a little hope and joy all year long.
Four months from the day I'm writing this, it will be Christmas again. So probably time for me to get the tree out. We already have the lights (we got Permalights last year, and no they are not always Christmas. We did the red, white and blue in July and so forth). Our neighbors put up with a lot.
The song asks “sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” I am. And not ashamed.